Just about everybody likes beer – Americans drink more than 6 billion gallons a year! If you’re a beer enthusiast, you may have considered starting your own brewery but have been discouraged by how challenging it seems. But here’s the thing – there’s nothing stopping you. Each and every business started with someone’s budding dream and took off from there. With a terrific idea, hard work, and the right team in place, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.
Jim Koch is living proof of that. Koch is the founder of the mega-brewery Samuel Adams. In this article he shares tips based on his own experiences, starting from his own dream over three decades ago to start the beer juggernaut that is now Samuel Adams.
Quality Is King
The reason customers pick one beer over all others is because of its quality. Your number one focus should be on developing a quality product for your customers. Your customers want to drink a great beer, and if you can provide that, they’ll seek you out and spread the word to others.
Whatever business decisions you make along the way, make sure to keep quality control front and center. Without a stellar product, you won’t be able to grow your company. Don’t skimp on brewing the best possible beverage for your consumers.
Tell Your Story
As with any new business or product, the right branding can propel your company to the next level. An important aspect of building your brand is the backstory behind you and your business. Share your story to foster personal connections to your customer base.
According to Grant Fraley of ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, San Diego, you should “be true to your passion and that will come through in your business story.” Note that a great backstory won’t move a subpar product – you still need to deliver. That being said, a terrific product paired with a compelling backstory can be PR gold.
What’s your unique story? When you’re starting your brewery, incorporate that story into your brand for built-in PR.
Build A Strong Team
When you’re building a food or beverage business from the ground up, finding and hiring the right people can make or break you. Your fledging business will only be as strong as the employees who are making and distributing your product. Take the time to vet applicants to ensure they are the right fit for your company.
Every small business requires long hours and dedication during the start-up phase, but the food and beverage industry is particularly demanding in these respects. Starting a brewery is no different and you need a strong team behind you. During the interview process, look for those who are willing to invest the time and energy needed to build a successful company.
One of the most important considerations when hiring employees for this line of work is their intrinsic motivation. Skills can be taught, but motivation is that something extra that will make your employees provide true value –they’ll go the extra mile for you and your business, which will pay off in a better quality product.
Each new hire helps build the fabric of your company, and ultimately is responsible for the outcome of the final product. Learn more about hiring your first employees to build the best possible team for your start-up brewery.
Outsource To Pros
This may be your first time starting your own company, or even working within the beverage industry. It can be intimidating, but there are ways to learn on the job. Every great company had to start somewhere and yours is no exception. Lack of knowledge doesn’t foretell failure, but lack of education does.
If you’re new to the brewery industry, there’s no shame in seeking help and advice from a seasoned pro. Consider the example of lawyer-turned-distiller Chris Murillo at Astoria Distilling Company, New York — he found hiring a consultant to coach him on the ins-and-outs of the distillery industry proved to be invaluable.
Let Your Passion Guide You
Starting your own brewery does not guarantee overnight success. It will take dedication, patience, and work. Brewing your own beer is an inherently time-consuming and labor-intensive process, so don’t get discouraged in the beginning when you’re facing manual labor and long days (or weeks)!
During these times, it helps to circle back to WHY you wanted to start your own brewing business. Most likely, you had the dream and drive to become your own boss and build something sustainable. Also, odds are you picked brewing because you’re passionate about the beverage industry and thought you could create an amazing product to share with the public. Focus on those goals to keep you moving forward in a positive direction.
Step Away From The Office
The reality of starting a brewery sounds romantic, but it actually means long hours on-site. When the Chisms started Council Brewing, San Diego they were working up to twenty hours a day. However, they realized that their business wouldn’t survive if they didn’t set aside time for themselves.
It’s natural to want to direct each minute of your time and energy toward growing your new company, but that can result in burnout. Make the effort to take time away from work so you can regroup and come back refreshed. Balance makes for better days in the office, as well as more appreciation for your time away from it.
The Bottom Line
The nature of any new start-up is that your work will be demanding and at times frustrating, but ultimately fulfilling. Starting a brewery is no different, so know that your drive and passion can help you build something great. With time, energy, and hard work, your company may even be the next Sam Adams!
Accion loans to food and beverage entrepreneurs are made possible thanks to support from The Boston Beer company through its Brewing the American Dream program, which is focused on helping small businesses thrive.
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